Kerry Considering Yet Another Middle East Trip

March 30, 2014  

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is considering yet another visit to the Middle East in order to save the failing Israel-Palestinian Authority (PA) peace process.

American officials who spoke to The Associated Press (AP) on Sunday said that Kerry, who is currently in Paris, was weighing a return to the region to find a way out of the deadlock.

Kerry was in Paris to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for talks on the crisis in Ukraine. American officials told the news agency that Kerry was considering an unscheduled return to the Middle East on Monday in search of a formula to extend the negotiations.

The latest deadlock is over the continuation of the peace process past an April 29 deadline Kerry had set when talks restarted in July.

The PA is demanding that Israel free the fourth batch of terrorists it promised to release as a “gesture”, so that talks will continue. Cabinet ministers have pressured Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to go through with the fourth release, given that there has been little progress in the peace process, and also in the wake of statements by PA officials that they were staying in the talks only for the terrorist releases.

On Friday, PA official Jibril Rajoub said that Israel had informed the PA through American mediator Martin Indyk that it will not release the fourth batch of terrorists, adding that the move was a “slap in the face of the U.S. administration and its efforts.”

Hours later, Fatah official Hazem Abu Shanab said that Israel would regret its decision not to go through with the release of the fourth batch.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu predicted on Sunday morning that the issue will be settled within a few days.

The Prime Minister told Likud minister that the negotiations “will either be settled or implode; in any event, no deal will be made in the absence of a clear exchange benefiting both parties.”

He added that the final verdict on the fourth batch of terrorist releases, if it is to go through at all, will take several days to finalize and that any further agreements will be subject to a government vote.

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